Sandwiched between our excursions to Etna, Malta, and Ragusa, we managed to squeeze a bit more fun out of the tiny island of Ortigia.
What makes the the Duomo a Frankenstein's monster of a building? What's that nondescript door in the wall to the right of the Duomo? And where can you go to hear eclectic live music in Ortigia?
The Cathedral of Siracusa (the Duomo) began in the 5th Century BC as the Greek Temple of Athena - you can still see the weathered Doric columns on the side of the building. Then in the 7th Century AD it was converted to a Christian Cathedral - the mediaeval fortress-like walls on the side incorporate the ancient Greek columns. Finally, after the 1693 earthquake, the facade was replaced in the "High Sicilian Baroque" style.
A little-known attraction in Ortigia is the Ipogea di Piazza Duomo - a fascinating network of underground tunnels, chambers, and former cisterns & quarries that the locals used as an air-raid shelter during WW II. This time of year it's only open on weekends. We exited down by our favorite sea-side park and enjoyed a rosé in the sunshine listening to the waves lapping on the rocks.
One of the first things we look for when arriving in a new place is live music - surprisingly difficult to find in some places. In Ortigia we became regulars at club right in the Piazza Duomo called "Punto G" (yup...it means "G Spot"). The food is unremarkable (stick to the pizza), but the entertainment is varied and first-rate. We saw a four-piece "Gypsy Jazz" band, a rockabilly band that played for a wild "hen" (bachelorette) party, and a jazz duo - piano and vocalist. On our final night they hosted a special "Wine and Swing" event that featured an 18 piece big band that combined the music of Glenn Miller with two actors playing out his and his wife's life & love story in between songs. We couldn't help getting nostalgic for our parents who would've loved the show.
After the show, we crashed a speed dating event in a tiny wine bar Just a few doors down when we heard "I Will Survive" wafting into the street. Nancy had a blast and ignored Richard's reminder that we had a big travel day ahead of us. Instead, she scribbled "Tina Turner" on a napkin, handed it to the DJ, and started dancing with another patron who said to Richard "I love your wife". We finally headed back to the apartment well after midnight, happy to have made some wonderful farewell memories of Ortigia.
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Nancy McCabe &